Geography & Climate

GEOGRAPHY

In the north, Georgia has a 723 km common border with Russia, specifically with the Northern Caucasus federal district. The following Russian republics/subdivisions — from west to east — border Georgia: Krasnodar Krai, Karachay-Cherkessia, Kabardino-Balkaria, North Ossetia-Alania, Ingushetia, Chechnya, Dagestan. Georgia also shares borders with Azerbaijan (322 km) to the south-east, Armenia (164 km.) to the south, and Turkey (252 km.) to the south-west. Mountains are the dominant geographic feature of Georgia. The Likhi Range divides the country into eastern and western halves. Historically, the western portion of Georgia was known as Colchis while the eastern plateau was called Iberia. Due to a complex geographic setting, mountains also isolate the northern region of Svaneti from the rest of Georgia.

The Greater Caucasus Mountain Range separates Georgia from the North Caucasian Republics of Russia. The southern portion of the country is bounded by the Lesser Caucasus Mountains. The Greater Caucasus Mountain Range is much higher in elevation than the Lesser Caucasus Mountains, with the highest peaks rising more than 5,000 meters (16,400 ft) above sea level.

he highest mountain in Georgia is Mount Shkhara at 5,201 meters (17,059 ft), and the second highest is Mount Janga (Jangi-Tau) at 5,051 meters (16,572 ft) above sea level. Other prominent peaks include Kazbegi (Kazbek) at 5,047 meters (16,554 ft), Tetnuldi (4,974 m./16,319ft.), Shota Rustaveli (4,960 m./16,273ft.), Mt. Ushba (4,710 m./15,453ft.), and Ailama (4,525 m./14,842ft.). Out of the abovementioned peaks, only Kazbegi is of volcanic origin. The region between Kazbegi and Shkhara (a distance of about 200 km. along the Main Caucasus Range) is dominated by numerous glaciers. Out of the 2,100 glaciers that exist in the Caucasus today, approximately 30% are located within Georgia.

The term, Lesser Caucasus Mountains is often used to describe the mountainous (highland) areas of southern Georgia that are connected to the Greater Caucasus Mountain Range by the Likhi Range. The area can be split into two separate sub-regions; the Lesser Caucasus Mountains, which run parallel to the Greater Caucasus Range, and the Southern Georgia Volcanic Highland, which lies immediately to the south of the Lesser Caucasus Mountains. The overall region can be characterized as being made up of various, interconnected mountain ranges (largely of volcanic origin) and plateaus that do not exceed 3,400 meters (approximately 11,000 ft) in elevation. Prominent features of the area include the Javakheti Volcanic Plateau, lakes, including Tabatskuri and Paravani, as well as mineral water and hot springs. The Southern Georgia Volcanic Highland is a young and unstable geologic region with high seismic activity and has experienced some of the most significant earthquakes that have been recorded in Georgia.

The rivers of Georgia belong to the basins of the Black Sea and Caspian Sea Basin. In the Caspian Sea Basin flows the Mtkvari river with its numerous tributaries (left) the Didi Liakhvi, the Aragvi, the Iori, the Alazani, (right) the Paravani, the Algeti, and the Khrami. The Black Sea Basin rivers include the Rioni, the Enguri, the Acharistskali, the Bzipi and others.

Longest rivers:
Mtkvari (Kura) 1364 km (847.5 miles)
Chorokhi: 438 km (272.1 miles)
Alazani: 351 km (218.1 miles)
Rioni: 327 km (203.1 miles)
Tori: 320 km (198.8 miles)
Enguri: 213 km (132.3 miles)
Largest lakes:
Paravani: 37.5 sq.km (14.4 sq ml)
Kartsakhi: 26.3 sq.km (10.1 sq ml)
Paliastomi: 18.2 sq.km (7.0 sq ml)
Tabatskuri: 14.2 sq.km (5.4 sq ml)
Khanchali: 13.3 sq.km (5.1 sq ml)
Jandari: 10.6 sq.km (4.0 sq ml)
CLIMATE

The climate of Georgia is extremely diverse, considering the nation’s small size. There are two main climatic zones, roughly separating Eastern and Western parts of the country. The Greater Caucasus Mountain Range plays an important role in moderating Georgia’s climate and protects the nation from the penetration of colder air masses from the north. The Lesser Caucasus Mountains partially protect the region from the influence of dry and hot air masses from the south as well.

Much of western Georgia lies within the northern periphery of the humid subtropical zone with annual precipitation ranging from 1000–4000 mm. (39–157 inches). The precipitation tends to be uniformly distributed throughout the year, although the rainfall can be particularly heavy during the Autumn months. The climate of the region varies significantly with elevation and while much of the lowland areas of western Georgia are relatively warm throughout the year, the foothills and mountainous areas (including both the Greater and Lesser Caucasus Mountains) experience cool, wet summers and snowy winters (snow cover often exceeds 2 meters in many regions). Ajaria is the wettest region of the Caucasus, where the Mt. Mtirala rainforest, east of Kobuleti receives around 4500 mm (177 inches) of precipitation per year.

Eastern Georgia has a transitional climate from humid subtropical to continental. The region’s weather patterns are influenced both by dry, Central Asian/Caspian air masses from the east and humid, Black Sea air masses from the west. The penetration of humid air masses from the Black Sea is often blocked by several mountain ranges (Likhi and Meskheti) that separate the eastern and western parts of the nation. Annual precipitation is considerably less than that of western Georgia and ranges from 400–1600 mm (16–63 inches). The wettest periods generally occur during Spring and Autumn while Winter and the Summer months tend to be the driest. Much of eastern Georgia experiences hot summers (especially in the low-lying areas) and relatively cold winters. As in the western parts of the nation, elevation plays an important role in eastern Georgia as well, and climatic conditions above 1500 metres (4920ft) above sea level are considerably cooler (even colder) than those of the low-lying areas. The regions that lie above 2000 meters (6560ft) above sea level frequently experience frost even during the summer months.